About 60 of us took off from the GG Bridge at 6AM Saturday morning after taking the "don't do dumb stuff" pledge from Rob the RBA. This ride was dedicated to Tom Milton who was singed up for the ride but passed away on the Devil Mountain Double 4 weeks earlier. His girl friend was riding it and a few of us would be carrying his brevet card throughout the ride as this was the only ride he was missing in order to complete the full series. (200k, 300k, 400k, 600k). Rob also had a bunch of black wrist bands which had "Remembering Tom Milton" on them for those that wanted to wear them.
We all rode the usual way north thru all the small Marin towns out to Fairfax. From there we thankfully ride straight to Pt Reyes as I get a bit tired of riding thru Nicassio. I am riding with Debra (Tom’s girlfriend) and a couple other riders. In the early part of these rides you will ride with the group until the first hill. That is when the group usually breaks up with the faster/stronger riders getting ahead and slower riders falling back. Eventually you just kind of fall into a like group of riders who are all have about the same pace. Usually these are the riders you have ridden with on many rides and you know them well. Some you may enjoy riding with and others maybe not. We all have to stop in Pt Reyes to get a receipt to prove we were there. I grab chocolate milk and am ready to go. We will be back here in over a day from now so I dream of hitting Pt Reyes again with only 35 miles to go.
We are now heading to Petaluma for a stop at Peets then to Healdsburg for lunch at Safeway. I am still riding with Debra and we have picked up Bill and Don. During each leg we get away from each other here and there but we all meet up again at the controls and leave together. The further into the ride you go the more the groups start to form and riders then stick together thru thick and thin. If you get caught up in a fast group you tend to ride faster but you will pay for it. If you ride with a slower group you will end up pulling more and again you will pay for it. I am looking for a group with riders of about my ability to make the ride more enjoyable. Our group of Bill, Debra, Don, Alex and myself makes for a great group but there are other riders that join us here and there along the route. Sometimes you will get a strong rider in the group who when they get to the front think they are doing everyone a favor by ramping the pace up a bit or more. But actually they are putting some of the riders in distress and breaking the group up. I have to remember that this is a 375 mile ride and going 1 to 2 MPH faster will not make much difference now and I may end up paying for it later. Sometimes you can talk the person into going slower or sometimes you just let them ride away. You have to remember to keep an eye out for the folks behind you if you want to be a part of the group. But it is still early so the groups are not unofficially official yet.
After we leave Petaluma we are fighting a decent headwind as we head to Healdsburg. This is typical for this section on our 300k but the 300k turns back in Healdsburg and we are heading further north. I am not looking forward to 140 miles of headwind but keep telling myself that we should get help on our return on Sunday. Plus I would rather deal with headwinds first if I was guaranteed to get tailwinds later. But of course there are no guarantees in brevets.
At Healdsburg we hit the Safeway and I grab a bowl of soup and a drink. Whenever you get to a control the first thing I do is get myself ready to leave as you do not want to delay your group especially this early in the ride (80 miles) as others may not consider you part of the official group yet. I turn my route sheet, get my bottles filled, get my receipt and put it securely in my card and into my bag then hit the restroom if I have to. Then I am good to eat. I cannot tell you how important this is because if you forget any of these tasks you may find yourself on your own.
Debra, Bill, Don, Alex and myself have officially become a gang by now as we head toward Cloverdale 30 mile further north. This is a flat section and we make good time even with the headwind. Cloverdale is not an official control on the outbound leg but will be on the inbound leg. Controls are required if there is a way to shortcut the course. By requiring a receipt it proves you did not take the shortcut. Since from Healdsburg all the way out to Ft Bragg there is no shorter route there need not be a control along the way. However it is 100 miles to the turn around so we hit Cloverdale to refill bottles etc. since it will be a tough 30 miles up and over Hwy 128 to the next town of Boonville. We leave Cloverdale for the pisser hill ahead on Hwy 128. It is not that bad but at 3 miles it will be our longest. But worse are the constant rollers along the ridge that go on for 15 miles before you finally head official out of the hill at Boonville. One the way up the hill Alex hit my rear wheel and he and Bill hit the deck. We were only going about 5-6 MPH so it was a slow speed crash so no harm. Except Alex's front brake was not working. We undid his cable and he would ride the remainder of his ride one braked. We finally made it to Boonville and stopped again to refill bottles and take a break. We have another 25 miles to get to the Paul Dimmick Park where there is a bag drop and a group of volunteers with food and supplies. They have also set up a small shrine to Tom and Champagne is promised to toast Tom.
This is a long stretch for some reason, perhaps since the wind is still in our face. Also, you ride thru small town after small town on this Hwy so of course I am obligate to race to each city limit sign. I am always on the lookout and Don is my main competition. I can usually win the sprit because I pay attention to the road sings and am on my toes when I know we are getting close. It doesn't hurt to draw Don's attention away at the right moment by mentioning that his tire looks low or yelling car back even if there is not one : )
I think I won about 80% of these sprints and boy did my legs feel it after each one. I think by the end of the ride this had a major impact on my legs.
We hit Dimmick park and there are volunteers who will ask if they can take your bike, what you want to eat and will get your drop bag. The first thing I do is order cup-o-noodles so it will start to cool. Then I get my bottles ready, sit down, relax and eat up. We have been hanging around controls longer than I usually do but with this wind killing us it just feels good to not be moving. I change jackets to a warmer one and add some think bib knickers over my shorts. It is supposed to get cold tonight and I want to be prepared. Since we will be passing here 50 miles from now this is a good time to experiment since I can make adjustments when I return if needed.
We now have 8 miles to the coast then 10 miles to Mendocino and another 10 miles to the turn around in Ft Bragg. Now you are actually not so upset that you have been fighting headwinds since mile 40ish. Now you would be pissed off if they actually went away as you are so close to turning around and getting their benefit. But even no wind would feel like a tailwind at this point as we have had zero tailwind and thought headwinds the entire way.
We all get ready for night time riding by turning on lights and donning our required reflective gear. We hit the road and it seems like we are moving along better than before. Being in the forest has kept the winds at bay and we are soon at the big hill where Hwy 1 meets Hwy 128. It is here that we lose Alex. He mentioned he is not feeling well and told us if he falls off to just go ahead. We wait at the top for a while but assume he turned around to go back to the camp ground.
There are four more city limit signs along Hwy 1 and I get 3 on the way out and maybe all four on the way back. It is now dark when we hit Safeway in Ft Bragg. I get myself ready for the return then grab some food. Unfortunately the deli is closed which is a bit hit at all the Safeways.
We are now at mile 182 and have 193 to get home. Once the sun goes down things tend to slow down. There is no need to hurry to beat the sunset so we dilly dally a bit at Safeway then head south back to Dimmick park. We now have a decent tailwind and it feels fantastic. We have not seen Alex but pick up Veronica along Hwy 1 so we are back to a gang of five.
We make good time back to Dimmick Park where I order another Cup-o-Noodles and now sit by the fire to warm up. No one has heard from Alex so I am a bit worried. Now my thinking is that he found a place to hang out ad called a relative to pick him up as we did not see him on the return ride. We make a toast to Tom and sip champagne then after a lengthy stay we reluctantly leave the fire and head out into the cold morning. We are about 20 miles back to Boonville but Debra has a room five mile before then in Philo. We again have the wind at our backs and are making decent time, for night time riding, but the monotony of Hwy 128 is making me sleepy. If there were turns every so often it would help me stay awake but my eyes are drooping. I can usually make it to sunrise on these rides but this is the second year I have had problem on this ride. We were planning to use Debra room to take a short nap but we missed the town so decided to continue to Boonville and hit the Post Office. In small towns the PO is usually open 24 hours and sure enough we found it open and warm. But warm is relative and although it was warm compared to the outside temp it was not warm after a few minutes. I throw a bit of junk mail on the floor and sit down to close my eyes. I think I may have gotten a few 5 minute naps between our 3:30 to 5:00 stop. Once we saw a bit of light we took off to tackle the upcoming 20 miles of hills and rollers back to Cloverdale.
We finally get over the hills and roll into the Starbuck in Cloverdale. The sun is up and warming us up nicely. We all grab a big coffee drink and we all take over the bathrooms to make morning adjustments to clothing. I now had on a pair of shorts, bib shorts and the bib knickers. It was getting to my butt so I decided to make a bit of a switch as I did not want to ride the final 115 miles with a sore butt. Luckily it worked and I was fairly comfy till the end.
We are now heading back to Healdsburg but not stopping until we hit another Safeway in Guerneville along the Russian River. We hit it at lunch time and I have a sandwich and go thru my stop ritual to get ready for the next leg thru Occidental and Valley Ford on the way to Pt Reyes. We have a big hill into Occidental but then it is smooth sailing all the way to Pt Reyes with helpful tailwinds most of the way. There were a few brutal headwinds as we were riding thru the turns south of Tamales that stopped us in our tracks. When we rolled into Pt Reyes the wind was blowing things all over the town. We hit the store for our last receipt and had only the usual 35 mile ride back thru Nicassio. I hate the hills out of Nicassio but knowing I was almost done they went down a bit easier. We then hit the city streets starting in Fairfax and before I knew it we were on Chapman hill which was really getting to my legs. I have a feeling it was all the sprints along the way when I kicked Don’s ass but now I am thinking I may not work so hard next year. We ride thru Sausalito and up to the GG Bridge. I have to use the restroom so I plan to ride the west side of the bridge and check out the restroom beforehand. The others are waiting for me on the bike side wondering what happened. As I head across at about 6:30 pm there is little pedestrian traffic and the others see me head off. So we are now on opposite sides of the bridge and Don lives in Napa so has no clue that the first tower is the last count line sign. I manage to take him on the final sprint without him even knowing it until I rub it in at the finish. We all pull in at 6:50PM Sunday after 36 hours and 50 minutes.
We check in and say our good buys. I wanted to get home ASAP as I have not seen my girls all weekend and expected to be home much earlier.
So now I have a 230k in a couple of weeks (wow, only 140 miles) then a 1,000k at the end of June. The tailwinds on Sunday saved the ride from being a brutal ride and of course the company was fantastic. It isn’t very often that you get a group that works so well together and looks after each other. I would be happy to ride with these five again anytime.
Thanks again Don, Bill, Alex, Veronica and of course Debra. And I can’t forget to mention that many of us were riding with Tom in our hearts and know he would have loved to be out there pulling us along.
Willy in Pacifica
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